I thank Secretary General Guterres for his briefing. We wholehearted support your public statement made last Thursday in reaction to Ethiopia declaring seven UN officials as persona non grata. We have also taken note of your letter sent to the Security Council regarding the matter.
Estonia strongly condemns the decision of the Government of Ethiopia to expel seven UN officials, including humanitarian and human rights officials. These personnel were responsible for the valuable and difficult work of delivering lifesaving aid to Ethiopia and helping Ethiopian people to cope with the unfolding manmade humanitarian catastrophe. It is essential that the UN humanitarian operations are immediately allowed to resume in full capacity in Ethiopia.
UN humanitarian operations are guided by the principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, and independence, and they have our full confidence. Any accusations against UN workers and humanitarian personnel of breaches of these principles should be accompanied by clear evidence. There is a process for handling any such concerns and this has not been followed.
The expulsion of the UN officials from Ethiopia undermines the efforts to alleviate the dire humanitarian situation and further endangers the work of humanitarian aid workers in northern Ethiopia, where they are already facing violence and harassment.
All parties to the conflict have an obligation to facilitate safe and unhindered humanitarian access to all areas affected by conflict and ensure the protection of humanitarian workers, in line with international humanitarian law.
We urge the government of Ethiopia to take further steps to ensure sustained access for aid convoys to Tigray, to restore public services in the region and to allow food, fuel and medical supplies to enter. Only 11 percent of aid needed entering the region is not acceptable.
At the same time, we call upon the Tigray forces to stop their offensive in neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions and to facilitate humanitarian assistance to hundreds of thousands of displaced people.
Furthermore, we underline the importance of concluding the joint investigation into the allegations of human rights violations and abuses, in particular against human rights workers. The continued reports about violations and abuses of international humanitarian law and international human rights law are deeply worrying and accountability for the violations must be ensured.
Finally, I reiterate that there is no military solution in Tigray. The newly appointed cabinet in Ethiopia has a mandate from the people and an obligation to bring about a prompt and peaceful solution to the conflict and ensure that people of Ethiopia do not die of hunger
I urge the parties to immediately cease hostilities, ensure protection of civilians and minimize the humanitarian consequences of the ongoing conflict. This should be followed by an inclusive and credible political process, with the aim of national reconciliation. In this context, we also reiterate the role of the African Union and encourage their continued engagement in this crisis.